Garbage Monster at the Melbourne Comedy Festival

Harvey Weinstein. Katy Perry. Bootcut jeans. All of these have been placed firmly in the bin. But we haven’t had to take our bins out for many years, and something’s starting to smell. Alice Tovey's new show, Garbage Monster, explores the parts of ourselves and our society that we hide away. 

Even when we take out the bins – where does it all go? Are our emotional landfills just filling up with garbage men and outdated food trends? Does what we put into the bin disappear, or is it just out of sight and, eventually, out of mind. Garbage Monster explores the themes of hatred, forgiveness, self-care, and most importantly, how to be a sexy feminist as a means of busting out of your own echo chamber.

Carly spoke with comedian Alice Tovey about the larger role comedy has in starting conversations, and the high and lows of performing comedy. Read the full interview below:

Alice Tovey

The concept for your show is about that which we don’t like to really confront too much in society – the things that we know are uncomfortable and give light to initially but then throw out into the bin…what inspired you to create a show centred around this concept and where did you begin in deciding on content to be part of the show? What were your first definites to discuss?


At first, I wasn’t planning on writing a show for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I was planning on taking the year off, having written four shows and looking at the greying bags under my eyes. But thoughts and feelings that I had been neglecting for far too long started to creep to the surface. I was faced with two choices. One, discuss these feelings with an accredited medical professional. Or two, talk about them onstage in front of strangers for a reasonable fee. I chose the latter.


Once I landed on a show concept, the material came flooding out. There is so much buzzing around the zeitgeist at the moment, with the #metoo movement (among other important social movements) in full swing.


The news cycle moves so fast these days that I found that writing my show I wasn’t so much digging up new bits, but refocusing attention on what needs to be said and done. I for one have a very short attention span, so it was a useful exercise to sit in the shit for a bit and not jump on to the next garbage monster too rapidly.  


Often comedy can be overlooked as just being about a bit of a laugh or about self-deprecating humour but shows like this prove that they can also talk about wider issues. What role do you believe comedy has in larger conversations – for example, you mention feminism, forgiveness, self-care, etc?


Comedy presents us an opportunity to observe the hidden parts of ourselves in a safe, jovial way. It’s easier to laugh at a UTI than cry at a UTI (although, trust me, I have cried over my fair share of UTIs).


More rather, representation in comedy is critical. Seeing people who look like you, with similar lived experiences, talking about problems that effect your life, is truly emboldening. I’m not saying that every audience member will have shared my exact experience, but I hope that audience members can see something of themselves in me and they can feel seen and heard.


How much of this show changes based on the audience’s interaction with your show that night? Is there part of it that relies on their engagement or is it a well oiled machine? What are the joys and fears of working with a live and unpredictable crowd?


You’ll have to wait and see. I have some wild treats for my audiences and encourage them to join me on the ride.


I’m a very anxious person (surprise), but I feel my most calm onstage.  I love a live audience. Each audience brings something new. Sometimes it’s exactly what you want. Other times it’s a bit left of centre, but sometimes those are the best shows.


Also, I know that I’m always in safe hands with my musical director, Ned Dixon. He plays the audiences almost as well as he plays the keys, and he plays the keys very well. Nothing can shake me when the keys are on fire.


What is the most challenging part of performing a comedy show and what is the most rewarding part?


The most challenging part is the writing. Writing comedy in a vacuum is both a rewarding and harrowing experience. I spend a lot of my days in too-big tracksuit pants, typing jokes about intersectional feminism into my laptop, wondering if anyone else will find it funny. I’m pretty fun, if I’m honest.  


Having said that, sometimes writing can be so satisfying and soothing if you’re in the right rhythm and have a bloody good cup of tea by your side.


As for the reward, I live for the laugh. I am a child of the stage and the love of the audience sustains me. I wait in anticipation for the next hit of sweet, sweet laughter.


Finally, what do you hope audiences walk away from this particular show talking or laughing about?


I hope people enter this show with an open mind and leave with a sense of empathy. Without giving too much away, I want people to feel able to embrace themselves fully, without judgement, and to realise that some garbage monsters are not born, but made.




Favourite production you have ever seen?
Reuben Kaye. A masterclass in cabaret excellence

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
My parents house. For the food and because my dogs live there

Dream role to perform?
Maureen in Rent. See my show and I think you’ll know why

Plays or musicals?
Musicals. Always

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Eating and watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Often at the same time

What’s next for you after this show?
I’m going to sleep for 48 hours and then clean my house

Garbage Monster opens at the Butterfly Club on April 12 2019 as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. You can get your tickets here.

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